A long-standing belief in business is the notion that people buy from people that they know, like and trust. For the past year, I have been watching a trend that threatens this widely-held belief. Much like the belief that the world was flat was ultimately destroyed by new information, the concept of know, like & trust is beginning to show signs of wear.
A colleague of mine, Miranda*, recently shared a situation that supports my theory that people buy what they see. Miranda and Beth* had been friends for several years and worked in complimentary industries. But during the past three years, Miranda and Beth didn’t seem to cross paths very often. Their dialog consisted of a few passing emails. They were still quite fond of one another and respected each other immensely; they simply weren’t visible in each other’s space.
Miranda discovered that Beth had been doing business with a mutual friend, Doug*, who owned a web development firm. A confused Miranda emailed me. Despite Beth being fully aware of Miranda’s skills, she chose to work with Doug and Miranda felt slighted.
Why did this happen to Miranda?
The scenario between Miranda, Beth and Doug is becoming more common. I affectionately call this type of scenario “short attention-span theatre
”. Most people are so preoccupied with the happenings of their life, that they simply forget about people who aren’t in their immediate field of view.
When you have a pressing business issue, you usually look within your immediate view for help initially. “Who’s around that can help me?” is typically where your thought process begins. You look to those business professionals who are right there, the ones within your view and within your reach.
Once identified, then the knowing, liking and trusting of them frames your perspective about moving forward with a opportunity.
In the case with Miranda and Beth, Miranda failed to realize that loosing contact with Beth meant she wasn’t on her radar when the web development needs arose. Miranda didn’t belong to Beth’s professional groups. Miranda and Beth weren’t connecting regularly online through social platforms. While Beth respected Miranda’s business acumen and she clearly knew, liked and trusted her, from Beth’s perspective however, Miranda was simply not visible at the time her business needs became pressing.
Being the friend that I am, I asked Miranda a few questions to help her gain more insight and reconcile her feelings about Beth’s decision to work with Doug. Beth’s choice was simply a matter of Doug being visible at the right time and in the right way.
Here’s what I asked Miranda:
1- What are your keep in touch tools?
As the ol’ adage goes “timing is everything”. The social space is bursting with a myriad of ways to be both visible and accessible. Are you staying connected to people in a way that matters and makes sense to them?
2- Do people really know what you do?
In other words, how are you ensuring that people have a clear understanding of the types of problems you solve and the types of customers with whom you do your best work?
3- Are you a specialist or a generalist?
People need to see you as the subject matter expert, not as the Jack (or Jill) of all trades. If your skills are broad-sweeping and general, you make it difficult for people to understand what your area of specialty is. Under these circumstances, you can’t expect to be thought of when opportunities arise.
Just this past week, I encountered a similar scenario. On Twitter, I broadcasted a request for a freelance copywriter and was overwhelmed by the response. Several colleagues emailed me privately asking why I didn’t consider them before I posted the tweet. “I didn’t think of you because I never see you.” I replied. It’s not that I don’t know, like or trust them, it’s simply a matter of them not being visible to me.
While I agree that being known, liked and trusted is critical to doing business, I would argue that it’s hard to buy what you don’t see first.
*Names changed for purpose of article.